BACKSTORY: The Motown Hit “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”
Q: Who recorded I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE first? I know it wasn't Marvin Gaye.
A: That song was first recorded by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles in 1966 but Motown big shot Berry Gordy didn't like it (he said it lacked potential) and rejected the song's release. Then came a version in 1967 by Marvin Gaye, and another by the Isley Brothers, both of which Berry ALSO rejected! That same year, the song was turned into a more upbeat tune by Gladys Knight & The Pips; this was the first version to be released and the song became a huge hit, peaking at #2. Smokey's version was finally released on the Miracles' album “Special Occasion” in April 1968. Gaye's version was eventually released, as a track on his album “In The Groove” in 1968. When the song gained popularity after deejays began playing the track – particularly in Chicago – it forced Berry Gordy to release Gaye's track as a single. It wound up being the “definitive” version of the song, going to #1 for seven weeks and becoming Motown's longest-running #1 single; it was also Gaye's first Number One. I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE was conceived by Motown singer/songwriter Barrett Strong who asked the Motown hit-songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland to help him compose the song; they refused, because they didn't want someone else's name in their songwriting credits! Strong then asked another Motown writer, Norman Whitfield to help and the two finished it together.